Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas is for the little children of Albay, too

Bright day ahead. Surely, resiliency will enable Bicolanos to rise above the gloom. But a little help would make the load much lighter. This photo was taken at a relocation center in Daraga.

I just arrived from Albay this morning and I am still overwhelmed with what I saw. The devastation is far more than we can imagine, not to mention the depth of pain super typhoon Reming caused to the Bicolanos.

We went around the evacuation centers in Daraga and Legaspi and my heart bleeds especially for the children who can hardly comprehend what struck them. I've interviewed several mothers and most of them shared that every time it starts to rain (after super typhoon Reming), their kids would ask "Tatakbo na naman ba tayo?"

One mother in Daraga who lost 12 members of her family (children, mother, sister, brothers, grandchildren, daughter-in- law) said her 16 year old son is still dazed up to now. I could only cry as Manang Gloria narrated her story.

"We were warned," Manang Gloria admitted, in Filipino. "But we never imagined it would be as hard as that."

And despite the warning, she went ahead to sell vegetables at the market that fateful Dec. 1 morning. She reasoned out: "What will I feed my children if I don't go out and make a living?"

By 9am (Dec. 1), it started to rain heavily. It was so hard one could no longer see anything five feet ahead. Manang Gloria had no choice but wait for the rains to stop. By the time it ended around 3pm, she hurriedly went home only to find out that it was no longer there, her family included.

Providentially, Manang Gloria earlier left four of her 8 children with her husband's relatives in another part of the town and so the they survived the tragedy.

"Hindi ko kayang isipin kung lahat sila iniwan ko sa bahay. Siguro hindi ko kakayanin," Manang Gloria told us. (I can't imagine if I left all of them in our home. I wouldn't have survived at all.)

Really, I haven't seen destruction so widespread as what I've just seen in Albay. I could only cry along with the people I interviewed. My God! Even the very able head of PDCC (Provl Disaster Coord Council) couldn't hold back his tears when he narrated to us what happened on that fateful day.

"The rain was just too much. When we could no longer see beyond 5 feet, I knew there would be casualties. At that point, we just gathered and pray. There was nothing else we could do..." Cedric Daet, chair of the PDCC told us.

True enough, after the water subsided, hundreds and hundreds have died. More than 200,000 families are left homeless. Hundreds of millions worth of crops and properties damaged.

Obviously, Christmas will never be the same this year for the people of Albay. This must be the saddest Christmas especially for the kids. I am just so glad Cathy started TBB (Thousand Bears for Bicol). How I wish we'll be able to give bears and a simple Christmas party for all the kids.

To date, the TBB campaign has passed the 500-mark (not including the uncollected ones at the drop off points) -- praise God for all the people He touched. But the more bears and toys, the more kids we bring joy. The distribution of toys is actually part of the trauma debriefing to be conducted by Operation Compassion.

In behalf of Cathy and Operation Compassion, I am appealing for help for this endeavor. Let's make the little children of Albay smile again especially this Christmas.


What do we need?

Teddy Bears - new or clean and in good condition OR friendly looking and cuddly stuffed toys that can be hugged by the children

Art materials - notebooks, pens, pencils and crayons that we can pack and give to the children. In addition to play therapy, art therapy is also a proven effective tool in helping heal the children.

Where can you drop off the materials?

Quezon City -- 41 Milkyway Drive, Blue Ridge, Quezon City contact - 0918-906-8852

Makati -- The Room Upstairs, 2nd floor, LRI Building, Nicanor Garcia (formerly Reposo), Makati City tel no. 899-9318

Alabang - Room 306, Medical Arts Building, Asian Hospital (clinic of Dr. Noemi Guloy)

Can we have the bears picked-up?

Some companies and schools are doing "bear drives" so yes, we can pick up a minimum of 30 bears from your school or office.

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